MUSIC REVIEW : Philharmonic Chamber Group Opens Season at Gindi

Seriously damaged in last January's earthquake, Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism reopened Monday along with another season, the 10th, of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society.

Patrons paid $90 to attend this benefit concert for Lee College and received--Esa-Pekka Salonen's influence apparently not extending to these environs--an ultra-safe program for the price. The performers, all donating their services this evening, offered a send-'em-home-humming program of easy Schubert, sugary Dvorak and light Beethoven.

But there was even more going on than most realized. Listed as a guest musician in the program booklet, one Martin Chalifour, acting concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, was actually being put through the paces of an audition for the position, vacated suddenly last spring by Sidney Weiss, of concertmaster of our own orchestra. (Chalifour also occupied the concertmaster's chair at orchestral concerts in the past two weeks.)

The challenges were exposing. In the 19-year-old Schubert's one-movement String Trio, D. 471, with a Philharmonic audition committee listening, the 34-year-old violinist, perhaps showing some nerves at first, warmed up to produce a handsome tone and dainty details, in a polished run-through with violist Evan N. Wilson and cellist Daniel Rothmuller.

Chalifour returned later to lead a spiffy account of Beethoven's Septet, Opus 20, at times a virtual violin concerto. He dashed elegantly and sang gracefully in a tasteful display of musicianship and virtuosity, eliciting approving smiles and pats on the back from his fellow musicians. The ensemble played with lithe energy and precision in a speedy, bouncy and pleasing reading.

In between came a not altogether successful revisit to Dvorak's Piano Quintet. The problem was simple: With the piano lid at full height, Mona Golabek's always engaging, poetic and fiery pianism proved overbearing to the Philharmonic quartet. Still, consistently spirited and warmly felt playing by all exposed most of the work's charms.

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